Crowns bestowed music award from DePaul

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Many thanks: Two of Chicago’s leading philanthropists, Renée and Lester Crown, received the Pro Musica Award from DePaul University during its School of Music’s centennial celebration. | Supplied photo

Renée and Lester Crown were feted at a gala dinner May 29 by DePaul University’s School of Music, during which they were presented with the Pro Musica Award in recognition for their extraordinary Chicago philanthropy.

“We recognized two heroic Chicagoans, heroic for their fidelity to Chicago and especially the arts in Chicago,” said Donald E. Casey, dean of DePaul’s School of Music. He made his remarks at the school’s annual spring concert in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, which followed the gala.

The Crowns have made a significant impact on the arts over the years. Their foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, provides assistance for arts and cultural organizations in Chicago including the Merit School of Music, which strives to fill the void in Chicago Public School music education programs. The foundation also supports Storycatchers Theatre, which encourages young people to write, produce and perform musicals; and TimeLine Theatre Company, which presents plays inspired by historical events that connect to relevant social and political issues today.

The Crowns are devoted patrons of Lyric Opera of Chicago, contributing to several major campaigns and sponsoring productions of “Don Giovanni.” They are members of the radio broadcast matching grant consortium for the Lyric’s radio programming and received the Carol Fox Award in 2004 for their leadership and commitment to Lyric Opera.

The Crowns also support arts programming for WTTW/WFMT where Renée has served on the board for many years, and has chaired and run a number of WTTW’s major events.

Renée is a former president and current member of the women’s board at Lyric Opera, while Lester has been the chairman of the executive committee since 1977. Renée is the vice chairman of the board of trustees at WTTW/WFMT, a founding member and former president of Northwestern University Women’s Board, and a life director of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Lester is chairman of Henry Crown and Co., a director of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and director of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is a life trustee of Northwestern University and the Aspen Institute, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Concert a “high point”

The scholarship gala, attended by more than 400 supporters, netted $220,000 for student financial aid, Casey told the audience, which was gathered to hear the DePaul Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Cliff Colnot. Prior to the Beethoven piece, the student orchestra brought Chicago composer Augusta Read Thomas’ commissioned work, “Aureole,” to life in its world premiere performance.

The eight-to-nine minute composition was commissioned by DePaul’s School of Music to be performed at the spring concert. According to Casey, the concert was “a high point of our yearlong centennial celebration.”

The 37th annual spring concert of the DePaul Symphony Orchestra and Chorus “is particularly celebratory as it involves nearly 200 DePaul students, four faculty soloists, one of the best-known and greatest symphonies ever written, as well as the very special work commissioned for the occasion,” said Casey.

The DePaul Chorus, prepared by Steven Grives, joined the students of the orchestra to perform Beethoven’s Ninth with esteemed faculty soloists Elizabeth Byrne, Jane Bunnell, Michael Sylvester and Marc Embree.

The School of Music was established at DePaul University in 1912 with the noble mission of educating promising young musicians. It now boasts one of the strongest collegiate orchestras in America.